Wrangler National Finals Rodeo header Brandon Beers owned a stout, athletically gifted bay mare by the name of Lucys Fast Jewel, who by a vote of the cowboys was professiaonal rodeo’s 2013 American Quarter Horse Association Head Horse of the Year. Beers bought Jewel from John McFarlane as an 8-year-old in the summer of 2012, and circuit rodeoed on her that year while the black horse he called Tevo—who went on to become the 2014 Head Horse of the Year—was out with a torn stifle. Beers rode Jewel when he and Cully Stafford won the 2012 Oregon rodeos in Sisters and Joseph. Brandon also rode Jewel in two rounds at the 2013 NFR when he headed for Jim Ross Cooper. But something bad was brewing in the box.

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[Read More: Brandon Beers' Jewel]

“Jewel was awesome and the same every day in 2012 and through the 2013 regular season (Brandon and Riley Minor were both riding Jewel when they split the second round at Cheyenne that summer),” Beers said. “But I had to get (6’ 7”, 265-pound bulldogger) Jake Rinehart to push her into the corner at the NFR. And after the Finals in 2013, she was never the same. I rode Jewel at The American in 2014, and she was pretty good. But then she just got to where she dreaded the box.

“We figured there had to be a reason. We treated Jewel for ulcers, and took her to several different vets. I thought maybe her hocks were sore. I tried it all. We left no stone unturned. They said she had some cysts on her ovaries, so Dr. Justin McCormick (at Copper Ridge Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery in Phoenix) removed Jewel’s ovaries in March of 2015. We were hoping that maybe we’d located the problem, and that would fix her. It didn’t. She never wanted to stand in the box like a wooden Indian, but when she decided to quit working, that was it.”

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Beers sold Jewel to 2009 World Champion Header Nick Sartain in 2017.

“Jewel had so much talent, but I got to where I couldn’t trust her, and got to resenting her,” Brandon said. “Tevo could be crippled in three legs, and you could still trust him to give you his whole heart. When Jewel functions, there still isn’t one much better out there. Anyway, when Nick tried her, he loved her, so he bought her. Jewel’s issues in the box were fully disclosed.”

That’s a fact. Jewel also has some pretty shiny redeeming qualities as a heel horse. In 2016, Stafford heeled on her for Beers at the Columbia River Circuit rodeos and up in Canada.

“She was phenomenal over on the heeling side,” Beers said. “She still had some issues in the box, but nothing like in the head box at times. Jewel did show it when she came into heat. But it was the box stuff we were hoping to fix by removing her ovaries (the procedure is called an ovariectomy, and according to veterinary consensus is most commonly done with the hopes of “improving a mare’s general demeanor and lowering her aggression toward other horses”). I had other guys, like Tee Woolman and Jimmie Cooper, ride Jewel and take things slow with her. I tried it all. There wasn’t a horse in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) that was faster than Jewel at the time, so it was worth trying everything we could think of.”

Jewel’s 17 now, and Sartain still owns her. He headed on her at the rodeos that first year he owned her, in 2017. These days, she’s Sartain’s backup head horse for the rodeos and his heel horse of choice at the jackpots.

“I bought Jewel knowing she was going to be troublesome,” Sartain said. “But I was always such a fan that I decided to try it anyway. I love the way she’s built. She’s 15 hands and weighs 1,200 pounds, so she’s the perfect size. She can haul the mail and really move her feet, and she works on her hind end and gets ahold of a steer’s head. I like that. She’s also absolutely wonderful to heel on, and it’s easier on her than heading.

“But Jewel’s ovaries weren’t her trouble. She’s a bit of a bleeder. And she doesn’t like shots—or even people—which makes managing that tough. It’s hard to give a rodeo horse Lasix, because they can’t drink for two hours after they get it. And I tell all the vets to treat Jewel like a stud, because she’ll hurt you. She bit Chongo (who works for Dr. Josh Harvey at Outlaw Equine in Decatur, Texas) in the chest. They said she tried to take his limbs off. Jewel will bite you, strike you, kick you—she’s rank. She’ll rub you off in the box, too.”

This horse clearly has issues. Is she worth it?

“Jewel’s a crazy character, but she’s just kind of a one-person horse,” Sartain said. “She’s got to trust you, or she won’t let you touch her. She’s a special case, for sure. But if you have love and respect for a good horse, Jewel is awesome. I warn the vets, ‘Look out, here comes the hell cat.’ I’m no Columbo, but I believe a lot of her craziness comes from her physical issues. Jewel had a spur right below her right hock that was rubbing some tendons, and had surgery for that in 2018. I had that taken care of when I was down after cutting my thumb off.

“I will say that if I ride her in slack and it’s quiet, she’ll go in there (the heading box) and operate pretty nicely. When it gets loud and she gets amped up in a perf, she starts bleeding and she’s out. But I don’t blame her for that. If I was drowning in my own blood, I’d be out, too. I knew there was trouble to be had when I bought Jewel. But she’s such an amazing athlete, and I wanted to try to put her together. She really is worth the trouble, especially to heel on.” TRJ

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